Research

As a sociologist of religion, my scholarship sits at the nexus of organizations and social change. I am especially drawn to questions about cohesion amid diversity and about the “containers” of religion. Much of my work attends to how this unfolds within the context of U.S. Catholicism.

I am the Principal Investigator for the National Abortion Attitudes Study (NAAS), which aims to increase our understanding of how “ordinary” Americans think about abortion. With my stellar team of researchers (Bridget Ritz, Maureen Day, Kendra Hutchens, and Patricia Tevington), we conducted more than 200 in-depth interviews with Americans across six regions of the U.S., building a sample that combined random address-based mailing with purposive quota selection to approximate the characteristics most associated with attitudes toward abortion. A report of our findings will be made available publicly in 2020. I am currently drafting a book manuscript and numerous articles from this research, which is supported by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.

My latest solo-authored book, Parish & Place: Organizing Diversity in Contemporary American Catholicism (Oxford 2017), looks at “personal parishes” as an organizational response to increasing ethnic, liturgical, and ideological diversity among American Catholics. Defined by purpose rather than territory, personal parishes act as named, specialist organizations alongside the more common territorial parish (a generalist organization). This research was supported by the National Science FoundationThe Louisville Institute, and Lilly-endowed program for “Engaged Scholars Studying Congregations.”

My first solo-authored book, Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful is Changing the Church (Oxford 2011/2014), explored the challenge and consequence of advocating for change from within a shared religious institution. It examines a lay Catholic movement (Voice of the Faithful) that emerged in the wake of child sexual abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church.

I’ve also coedited a volume with Gary Adler and Brian Starks entitled American Parishes: Remaking Local Catholicism (Fordham University Press 2019). The book was the product of a multi-year initiative we called The American Parish Project (TAPP) aimed at revitalizing the social scientific study of Catholic parishes. A summer 2015 TAPP seminar convened a small group of scholars selected from a competitive application process to critically engage a sociology of the parish. TAPP scholars have gone on to publish numerous publications of their own related to parishes, and our network continues to expand. TAPP was generously supported by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California as well as the Louisville Institute.

Another volume I coedited with Mary Ellen Konieczny and Charles Camosy – Polarization in the US Catholic Church (Liturgical 2016) – addresses the question of religion and conflict in public discourse from multiple disciplinary and applied angles.

I am currently working on a book manuscript examining “church conversions” – i.e., spaces that transition from religious purposes into non-religious purposes. I have conducted interviews in the U.S. and globally to depict this dynamic story of religious transition in urban and rural environments. This research is supported by generous grants from the Louisville Institute and Appalachian College Association.

Other forthcoming works include a co-authored book with collaborators Jerry Park and Stephen Cherry on Asian American Catholics. This work extends a national study I was commissioned to lead for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which informed their 2018 pastoral letter, Encountering Christ in Harmony. Reports from that study can be found here and here.

I am also collaborating with colleagues around the globe to write a book on Global Catholicism. Stay tuned!

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  1. Pingback: Politics and “Good” Catholics – Tricia C. Bruce, Ph.D.

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